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Link Microtek, a manufacturer of optical, RF and microwave products, recently received an order worth approximately £750,000 from Rohde & Schwarz to supply its Azdec secure optical MLC (mobile local communications) systems for installation on the first three units of the Royal Navy's planned class of eight Type 26 frigates, which are due to enter service from the mid-2020s. Rohde & Schwarz is responsible for the supply and integration of all communications systems on board the new Type 26 vessels, having been selected for this task by prime contractor BAE Systems.
The Azdec optical MLC system provides naval personnel with totally secure, interference-free voice communications while allowing them to roam away from their base positions, unhindered by any trailing wires. There are no RF emissions and the optical signals cannot be intercepted by any conventional method, so it is impossible for anyone to jam the transmissions or eavesdrop on what is being said. The Azdec optical communications technology is already in operation on a variety of Royal Navy vessels, such as Type 45 destroyers and Type 23 frigates.
The company will be supplying complete systems for installation on HMS Glasgow, HMS Belfast and HMS Cardiff, together with smaller-scale versions for the land-based integration facility that is being used to test and verify the functionality of the entire Type 26 communications system. Deliveries will be completed by 2021.
Each vessel will be equipped with two separate 8-channel Azdec systems, comprising a total of two base stations, 31 fixed infrared antennas, 16 binaural headsets, 32 operators’ belt-mounted battery-pack/control units and four battery-charging units. One system will cater to the bridge and bridge wings while the other one serves the operations room, and both will be integrated into the ship’s main communications system.
The optical digital encoding technology at the heart of the Azdec system is completely immune to radio, radar and electrical noise – even severe energy pulses – and has no effect on sensitive electronic equipment. Furthermore, the Type 26 system is compatible with the use of night vision goggles and fully satisfies the MoD’s TEMPEST requirements. It also carries a Class 1 product designation as defined by the EN 60825-1 standard, which means it presents no ocular or other health hazard to users.
Pictured is a typical Azdec optical communications system in use on the bridge of HMS Iron Duke, one of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates.
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